Danny Welbeck claimed revenge for his departure from Manchester United by scoring the winner as holders Arsenal reached the FA Cup semi-finals with a 2-1 away victory on Monday.
The Manchester-born United academy graduate, who joined the club at the age of eight, left in a ￡16 million (US$24 million) deal in September last year after being deemed surplus to requirements by new United manager Louis van Gaal.
He returned to haunt his former club as Arsenal claimed a first victory at Old Trafford since September 2006.
“Tonight, I thought we played well and deserved to win the game,” said Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, whose side were drawn to face either Championship side Reading or third-tier Bradford City in the last four.
“We had to start without apprehension and play at a a high pace, and we did that well. Danny Welbeck, I believe, is just happy to score. He worked extremely hard today and deserved his goal,” the Frenchman said.
Welbeck pounced on a mistake by Antonio Valencia to score a 61st-minute winner after Wayne Rooney had canceled out Nacho Monreal’s opener and United’s evening ended in ignominy when Angel di Maria was sent off after receiving a second yellow card for manhandling referee Michael Oliver.
United’s wait for FA Cup success will now stretch into a 12th year and their sole objective is now the race for UEFA Champions League qualification, in which they currently trail Arsenal by a point.
“I said in advance that [the top four] is a priority, but as a manager and as a player and club you want to win titles, and now we cannot win a title,” Van Gaal said.
With Jonny Evans beginning a six-game ban for spitting at Newcastle United’s Papiss Cisse, Luke Shaw came into the United defense, but although that was the only change to the hosts’ lineup, they displayed uncertainty from the off.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain started on the right for the Gunners, with Mesut Ozil in the center, and in the 26th minute the England midfielder marked his return to the starting XI by creating the opening goal.
Having earlier been granted the space to put a cross-shot wide, Oxlade-Chamberlain wriggled between Daley Blind, Shaw and Valencia before stabbing a pass to Monreal, who beat David de Gea at his near post.
United’s supporters were quick to voice their annoyance, but they were off their feet just three minutes later when Rooney met Di Maria’s right-wing cross with a fine diving header to claim his 14th goal against Arsenal.
Encouraged, United finished the first half strongly, with visiting goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny saving from Rooney, Di Maria and Marouane Fellaini, although Santi Cazorla worked De Gea with a free-kick at the other end.
United made two changes at halftime, introducing Phil Jones and Michael Carrick for Shaw and Ander Herrera, while Oxlade-Chamberlain had to hobble off five minutes in after appearing to injure his hamstring, with Aaron Ramsey coming on.
There were half-chances for both teams, De Gea saving a deflected Alexis Sanchez shot and Di Maria shooting wide, before Valencia’s blunder allowed Welbeck to put Arsenal ahead.
United’s supporters have bemoaned their team’s predilection for back-passes in recent weeks and it was from that the goal stemmed, with Welbeck seizing on Valencia’s under-cooked pass, touching the ball past the onrushing De Gea and rolling it home.
There was no muted celebration from the striker either, with the former favorite of the Stretford End clenching his fists in a clear show of delight.
Smalling should have equalized when he blazed Carrick’s flick over the bar from close range, while Fellaini tested Szczesny with a header, but it took a stunning De Gea save to prevent Cazorla swelling Arsenal’s lead.
Di Maria saw red with 13 minutes to play when he was booked for diving and responded by tugging Oliver’s shirt, completing a miserable night for United.
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